New Orleans social-misfit Skip Langdon (New Orleans Mourning, 1990) postpones her vacation from homicide when the ``Axeman'' writes the police and taunts them about two murders he has committed. Both victims belonged to several 12-step recovery programs, so Skip and her fellow officers attend meetings, swipe membership phone lists, and finally concentrate on two group participants--Di, once up on charges for child abuse, and Alex, a randy psychiatrist once accused of assault. Another murder occurs before Skip and sharp-tongued police-shrink Cindy Lou realize that Di is being framed. By then, however, Axeman has taken Alex hostage, and the two women must talk the killer into giving himself up. Cruel swipes at 12-step concepts and an unlikely meeting between Skip and her mother at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting undercut Smith's deft skewering of southern mannerisms and standards for womanhood. Still, this is a more polished work than Mourning, and Cindy Lou a more interesting heroine than Skip.